When cold weather arrives, I start carrying a sleeping pad with a higher R-value for better insulation against the frigid ground or snow. In the past, that often meant carrying a heavy sleeping pad filled with goose down or Primaloft or two closed cell foam sleeping pads. But those days are over since the introduction of the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad, which only weighs 15 ounces and has an R-value of 5.7.
The NeoAir XTherm is quite similar to Therm-a-Rest’s other NeoAir inflatable sleeping pads (by far the most popular backpacking sleeping pads in use today), with a rectangular cut, rounded corners, and horizontal baffles. Only the XTherm is a bit more rugged, with a heavier weight 70 denier non-slip nylon base fabric, than the 30 denier nylon used on the 3 season NeoAir XLite pad which weighs 3 ounces less and has an R-value of 3.3. The XTherm’s extra thick base fabric helps reduce the risk of puncture and in my mind reduces the need to carry a second closed cell foam pad as a backup “oh-sh*t” sleeping pad for cold weather camping.
In addition to being lightweight, the XTherm folds up extremely small (about the size of a 1 liter Nalgene, but thicker) because it’s not filled with down, Primaloft, or matted insulation. This is a big deal in winter when your pack is likely to be stuffed and you want to use your pack volume as efficiently as possible.
The insulating interior of all NeoAir Pads is filled with a honeycomb structure of triangular baffles, coated with a reflective silvery coating, which trap the air warmed by your body heat and reflect it back at you. Gossamer thin, the baffles compress easily when the pad in rolled up making it possible to have a high R-value pad with minimum bulk and weight. Higher R-values are achieved by adding more rows of baffles and reflective coating. A real design breakthrough, but very simple and elegant.
There are two ways to inflate the XTherm: you can fill it up with the included pump sack or simply blow it up normally. The pump sack is an extra long stuff sack with a hole at the end that fits over the XTherm’s inflation valve. While the pump sack adds another 1.5 ounces to your pack weight, it does help limit the amount of moisture from your breath that you would otherwise blow into the pad. While the moisture won’t have a big impact on the thermal efficiency of the pad, it can result in mold and mildew breaking down the insulating baffles and shell fabrics over time. If you have an old first generation XLite that has a translucent top fabric, chances are you can see black mold and mildew spots showing through the fabric that have grown inside the insulation layers of the pad. It’s just a matter of time (although probably a few years) before they weaken the fabric and the pad fails.
What’s it like to sleep on a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm? It’s unreal how warm the pad feels and I think that it adds another 10 degrees to my sleeping bag so I can take it to a lower temperature, but that’s a subjective observation on my part without any quantitative proof to back it up. I also like the fact that the XTherm has a rectangular shape and not a tapered one like many mummy style pads, because I think my feet stay on the pad better at night.
At a miserly 15 ounces, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm might just be the only inflatable sleeping pad you need for year-round use.
- Color: Reflex Gray
- R-Value: 5.7
- Size tested: Regular
- Weight: 15 oz / 430 g
- Width: 20 in / 51 cm
- Length: 72 in / 183 cm
- Thickness: 2.5 in / 6.3 cm
- Packed dimension: 9 x 4.0 / 23 x 10
- Top fabric type: 30d High Tenacity Nylon
- Bottom fabric type: 70d Nylon Soft Grip
Disclosure: Therm-a-Rest provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a sample NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad for this review. This post contains affiliate links.
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